OPINION: The real problem with Mindful Mondays

(Bella Pettengill • The Student Life)

CW: Eating Disorders

My name is Sara Anderson, and I am the creator of Mindful Monday. I have been a vegetarian for eight years and an athlete for 18. Hannah Hughes, my co-writer, is the founder and president of the club 5C Plant-Based Mission. 

Before I created Mindful Monday, I surveyed more than 200 Pomona College students, many of whom expressed a willingness to eliminate meat from at least one meal a week. However, Mindful Monday is not Meatless Monday. Contrary to popular commentary, meat was not completely eliminated from the options. Frary Dining Hall and Frank Dining Hall still offered grilled chicken at the Grill, tuna salad, meat proteins for omelets and many others. 

Mindful Monday was not designed to withhold meat, but rather to increase student awareness, i.e. mindfulness, around the sheer amount of meat that dining halls serve on a daily basis by decreasing the amount of meat served for one meal at both Frank and Frary on Mondays — a simple elimination of meat from the main line while maintaining access to meat in all other sections of Frary and Frank.  

As a member of the varsity track and field team at Pomona, I am aware of the desire and even need for lean protein that many athletes have. As such, the head chefs of both Frary and Frank and I ensured that this type of protein was maintained for these individuals.  

In her article, Lewis mentions how the dining halls’ “forced restriction” of meat has the potential to promote disordered eating among students. She cites a study from the National Library of Medicine that suggests vegetarianism and eating disorders can have a correlational relationship. But a correlational relationship only indicates that two things happen to occur simultaneously — we cannot infer from this study alone that the promotion of vegetarianism causes eating disorders or disordered eating practices. 

Moreover, this study only recruited a small, limited group of female participants without the use of random sampling methods. This means that the findings aren’t generalizable to the entire population of college students at the 5Cs — to make that generalization is a blatant inaccuracy and an incorrect application of the study’s findings.

Eating disorders are something that we should be having open dialogue about at the 5Cs, but to do so exclusively in the context of vegetarianism is a mistake. In reality, many factors can contribute to eating disorders, and to say that vegetarianism is an indicator of illness is a gross oversimplification. Vegetarianism is so much more than a “restrictive” eating practice — it’s about time we stop treating it as such. 

The real problem with Mindful Mondays lies not in its “restrictions,” but in its politics. Many Pomona students claim to care about the environment — until it affects them. Too much of the standard environmentalist mindset at Pomona is developed not with considerations of climate justice but with the preservation of the status quo steeped in neocolonialism. 

Opposition to the Mindful Monday program lies in its perceived connection to morals. Lewis says that “colleges should not be assigning moral value to foods and need to recognize potential consequences when they do.” 

But why do we need to think of sustainability as a moral concept? Sustainability is simply the culmination of actions that attempt to guarantee a future for every citizen of the planet. It should not be a moral but rather a standard of behavior.

In 2009, Former Pomona President Oxtoby adopted the Pomona College Climate Action Plan, which commits the school to being carbon neutral by 2030. To attend a school with this goal, with these values, students must understand that sustainability is intrinsic to so much of what they do on campus. From ensuring pools are covered at night to retain heat to composting food scraps from the dining hall at the Farm, student activity is constantly monitored for the potential to make it more sustainable. 

The real problem with Mindful Monday is that it showed students how they can contribute to a more sustainable planet — and they weren’t ready to hear it. 

Sara Anderson PO ’23 is an international relations major with a focus on environmental policy and security. She is a varsity track and field athlete who throws discus and hammer. 

Hannah Hughes PO ’25 is a public policy analysis major from Thousand Oaks, California. She loves cats and baking vegan desserts.

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